The average fuel pump lasts for more than 100,000 miles and sometimes longer, so more than likely, you won’t have to worry about it failing for quite a while. But the more miles your car accumulates, the more liable you are to run into a failed fuel pump. So what are the signs?
Here, we’ll discuss the main symptoms of a fuel pump that’s starting to go bad and also dive into how fuel pumps work and ways you can replace them.
Fuel Pump Basics
Old-fashioned fuel pumps were mechanical and located outside of the fuel tank. These pumps were prone to failure and could even cause a car to catch fire. Modern vehicles have used electric fuel pumps for the past few decades.
Electric fuel pumps have a couple of distinct advantages over their mechanical counterparts. For one thing, because they have fewer moving parts, they’re less prone to failure. For another, they’re submerged inside cool gasoline, which reduces their operating temperature and the risk of fire.
Today’s fuel pumps operate on the same direct-current power as the rest of your car’s electrical systems. The pump draws fuel out of the tank and pushes it through your fuel lines to the injectors, which spray it into the cylinders. A small filter at the pump’s intake prevents contaminants from entering your fuel system and damaging the pump, injectors, or cylinders.
Modern fuel pumps don’t rely on the engine to receive their power. Old fuel pumps wouldn’t start working until your starter kicked in, so it took more effort to start your vehicle. An electrical pump activates when your electrical system turns on, allowing easier starts.
9 Signs Of A Faulty Fuel Pump
When your fuel pump starts to fail, you’ll notice multiple symptoms. Here are nine of the things that may happen due to a failing pump:
- Difficulty starting– If your pump loses power, it will have trouble getting gas to the engine in time for your starter to kick in. You might have to turn the ignition multiple times to get enough gas to the fuel injectors.
- Engine stuttering– The problem doesn’t stop when your motor starts running. The pump needs to continue to supply fuel as long as you’re driving. Since your engine’s getting an inconsistent fuel supply, it will sputter as the fuel cuts in and out.
- Stalling– As long as your motor gets at least a small amount of fuel, it’s unlikely to stall –but it won’t perform as well as you would like. But in extreme cases, the fuel supply might get cut off altogether. In that case, your motor will stop running, even if you’re cruising down the highway.
- Loss of power– When the fuel pump experiences a minor drop in performance, you might not even feel any stuttering. Instead, you could experience a loss of power when you’re hauling heavy loads, going up inclines, or accelerating quickly. These are all cases where the motor needs a lot of fuel, and the pump simply can’t keep up.
- Power surges– When fuel pumps fail, they don’t just lose power. Sometimes, they have random spikes in power, pushing excess gas into the engine. This can cause the engine to rev for no apparent reason.
- Loss of fuel efficiency– Modern fuel pumps are computer-controlled to provide just the right amount of fuel. Whether you’re getting too little or too much, it will negatively impact your fuel efficiency. If your vehicle is getting poor mileage for no apparent reason, it could be your fuel pump.
- Noise from your fuel tank– A fuel pump usually produces a soft hum, which is inaudible over your car’s normal operating noise. If there’s a loud whirring sound coming from your fuel tank, your pump is most likely malfunctioning.
- Your check engine light is on– If one of your car’s sensors detects an issue in the fuel system, your “Check Engine” light will come on. The Check Engine light can appear for many reasons, but it’s essential to visit a mechanic regardless.
- Your engine won’t start at all– Simply put, if the pump has indeed failed, you will not be able to drive your car. Without fuel, the motor won’t be able to run. An engine can also fail to start for various other reasons, including a dead battery, alternator, starter, or even a clogged fuel filter.
How Does A Fuel Pump Replacement Work?
In some vehicles, there’s an access panel inside the passenger compartment, which you can use to get into the fuel tank. If there is no access panel, the tank must first be drained, released from its harness, and removed from the vehicle. The mechanic then disconnects all supply hoses and removes the pump from the tank.
The mechanic attaches the mounting brackets onto the pump and installs it back in the tank. Usually, the mechanic will also change the fuel filter at this point, and they will inspect the lines for cracks and other damage. Then, the mechanic reconnects all the hoses and reinstalls the tank if they had to remove it earlier.
Costs for fuel pump replacement can vary considerably depending on the vehicle and mostly depend on the pump’s value. Labor costs average anywhere from $125 to $260, while replacement pumps can cost between $95 to around $850. This sum makes up a total cost range of $220 to $1,110.
Under ordinary conditions, fuel pumps will last for decades without needing a replacement. By identifying symptoms, you can address potential problems before your pump fails. Depending on your vehicle, a replacement can be expensive. However, it’s cheaper to replace your damaged pump ahead of time than to wait until your car breaks down.